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Softek Nabs $62 Million Contract To Implement Electronic Voting In D.R.

With new doubts raised about the reliability of Puerto Rico’s electoral process, could the system be an option for the island?


November 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The Dominican Republic (D.R.) has awarded Puerto Rico-based Softek Inc. a $62 million contract to automate its electoral process. The new system, which Softek expects to implement by 2006, will allow citizens to cast their votes electronically in seven to 10 seconds and allow the results to be available mere hours after the polling stations have closed. Softek’s voting model incorporates biometrics to increase the security and transparency of the electoral process.

Julian Londoño, Softek’s president, said the company developed the efficient, fast, transparent, and secure voting model after two years of research and collaboration with Samurai of Brazil and the Caribbean Engineering Society of the D.R.

The model incorporates four basic components: voting terminals, software with security and encryption protocols to safeguard the data, protocols to transmit the results from the polling stations to the election headquarters, and protocols to announce the results. The D.R. would require some 15,000 voting terminals, each costing up to $1,000.

The system, which has proved to have zero margin of error, is able to print ballots and reports, which go directly into a sealed box. It takes other security measures such as detecting attempts to alter the data. Should a voting terminal fail, it can quickly be replaced and won’t affect the results. In addition, the system uses redundant servers in case one crashes.

Samurai will manufacture the electronic voting equipment. The Caribbean Engineering Society will provide the human capital in the D.R. Softek will lead the project and integrate the biometrics component into the process. Biometrics allows the identification of an individual through biological characteristics such as fingerprints, eye structure, and voice pattern.

"We will add a biometrics component to the D.R. voting model," said Londoño. "Since the Dominican Central Election Board is also the government agency in charge of citizens’ registration—similar to Puerto Rico’s demographic register—the biometrics component would simplify processes and allow for transparency."

The D.R. system would serve 5.5 million voters through 165 points of contact, or permanent registration offices. It would be used for the country’s various electoral processes, including its presidential and congressional elections.

Puerto Rico’s electoral process not so transparent?

As CARIBBEAN BUSINESS reported in its front-page story of Oct. 28, the island’s general election costs taxpayers over $76 million, yet ballots are still counted manually. Given the controversy surrounding the recent general election in Puerto Rico, the local government might consider following the D.R.’s lead and implementing an electronic voting system.

On Nov. 2, 1.9 million people voted for a new governor. With most of the votes still to be counted, the preliminary results that night pointed to a virtual dead heat between the Popular Democratic Party’s Anibal Acevedo Vila and the New Progressive Party’s Pedro Rossello. The margin was so slim as to warrant a recount. As of press time Monday, however, the first count still hadn’t been completed and there had been several reports of discrepancies between the voting reports and the ballots, raising doubts about the transparency and efficiency of the process.

"We are in a critical moment for our electoral model, which is tedious. Current controversies have challenged the system’s reliability," said Londoño.

The first thing Puerto Rico should do, he said, is take a good look at the system to be implemented in the D.R. and already in use in Brazil, where voting is mandatory for people age 18 to 70. The engineer, who witnessed a municipal election in Sao Paulo, said there are nearly 140 million voters in Brazil who cast their votes via 400,000 terminals spread throughout the vast country. Despite the enormity of the undertaking, he said, the results of the 2002 election were known in under six hours.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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